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Hejmo: International

Student Housing App

A tool for international students in Canada to navigate and learn about  the process of finding student housing.

UX/UI Design + Research + Illustration

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Timeframe

4 weeks

International students in Ontario

Adobe XD, Google forms, Adobe Illustrator

UX/UI designer, Visual designer, Researcher

Initial Challenge 

As an international student, I have had my fare share of unpleasant experiences with housing in Canada, something that I seemed to have in common with most, if not all, my international friends. I wanted to understand what the main factors behind this pattern were, and create a tool for international students to have an easier time navigating the housing market in their new adoptive country.

Target Audience

Tools used

Role

Research 

Iset up a survey to gather the experiences of international students all over the GTA.

The survey aimed to find out three main things:

what students thought the main factors are behind their unpleasant housing experiences, how informed they are about their rights and responsibilities as tenants, and how they are finding places to live.

With over 36 respondents in a one week period, here are some key findings:

-Over 66.6% indicated that difficulty finding a suitable place was a factor.

-Over 75% of them thought that the lack of knowledge about the legal process of renting a place was a factor.

-58.3% of respondents were either not very or not at all confident in their knowledge of their rights and responsibilities as tenants in Ontario.

-Most respondents, 66.6%, found their current place of residence through an online posting or social media group.

-In open ended questions, things like people taking advantage of international students (12 mentions), and lack of transparency in listings (15 mentions), were common among respondent's experiences.

Design Requirements

The survey showed that difficulty finding places to live, and lack of information, were the two main factors that have affected the respondent's experiences with housing.

Based on those results I produced a list of design requirements that my solution needed to fulfill:

-Provide students with information about the legal processes involved in renting a place in Ontario, as well as their rights and responsibilities as tenants, in a way that is concise and easy to understand.

-Create a space where students can find suitable places to live, which presents them with accurate, unbiased, and factual information so they can make informed choices.

 

-Provide international students with information about Canadian culture, specifically in the context of student living.

-Streamline the application process and create a space were students can share their documents

in a safe and informed way.

-Guide students through the whole process and warn them about the potential risks, prompting them to learn more about each step as they go through it.

Solutions

Using the design requirements as a guide, I incorporated a series of features that translate my findings into tangible solutions.

 

I will go through each of them and explain how they tackle the user's pain points.

Cultural and Legal Guide

The purpose of this is to breach the gaps in the student's knowledge and increase their confidence in their understanding of the legal process of renting a place in Ontario. Within each category there are a several learning modules. 

Each module contains summarized information about a topic, along with video content explaining the key points that students need to understand. Should students want or need more information, here they will find links to the resources available to them both within and outside their institution.

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Transparency Badges

When filling out the property listing, the landlord will be required to provide certain information: location, price, and property size.

Using that information, badges will be automatically given to properties that meet certain characteristics; for example, the "affordable" badge, will be automatically given to a property that is listed for a price at least 15% under the average for a property its size in the area.

"Well located" will be awarded to properties within 2km of a big amenity like a mall or shopping centre. 

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Automatically Filled Out Information

Based on the infromation provided by the landlord, the app will automatically fill out certain sections of the listing. 

One example of this is the distance from campus section; without giving away the exact location, the information displayed allows students to make informed decisions and protects them from misleading listings.

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Streamlined Application Process with Guides

This feature allows users to directly apply to the listings that interest them.

Within each listing they will find a list with of the required documentation, and should they need it, more information about what each document is, and why it is being asked.

 

Tapping on the apply button will start a chat directly between the landlord/real-state agent

and the potential tenant.

Users will be able to upload and store their documents, either from their profile or directly from the chat, and send them straight to their potential landlord.

At key moments during the process they will receive reminders about precautions that they should take, and will be prompted to learn more to help them stay clear from scams.

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Branding and Visual Identity

Colour Palette and Typography 

The main colour I used was blue. The reason for this is that according to the psychology of colour, blue is a colour that signifies trust, security and calm, all of which are necessary when dealing with housing.

Asa secondary colour I chose orange, both because it is blue's complementary colour and because it gives the interface a friendlier look.

Lastly, I used red for small details here and there to make the whole palette a little warmer.

Used a slightly blueish shade of light grey for the backgrounds to avoid using pure white, which can be a bit hard on the eyes.

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For the typography I used two typefaces at different weights: Helvetica and Avenir.

I chose low contrast sans-serifs to ensure that the text is always clear and legible.

I created information hierarchy alternating between the fonts and different weights and sizes.

Logo and Name

The name of the app comes from the word "home" in Esperanto.

Esperanto is an artificial language that was created with the intention of becoming a neutral lingua franca. It is fitting then, that an app meant to help students from all over the world find a home in Ontario, uses this word as its name.

The logo plays with negative space, lines, and letter forms to create the shape of a house. 

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Original Illustrations

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These vector illustration follow the same colour palette as the rest of the app. They are made in a style that feels friendly and inviting.

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